How are African-Americans treated by the law?

Violence has erupted in cities across the US over the death of African-American George Floyd, after he was physically restrained by police in Minneapolis.

We’ve looked at some of the data around crime and justice in the US, and what it shows about the experience of African-Americans when it comes to law and order.

1. African-Americans are more likely to get fatally shot

The available figures for incidents in which the police shoot and kill people show that for African-Americans, there’s a much higher chance of being fatally shot relative to their overall numbers in the US population.

In fact, in 2019, although African-Americans made up less than 14% of the population (according to official census figures), they accounted for more than 23% of the just over 1,000 fatal shootings by the police.

And that figure has been relatively consistent since 2017, whereas the number of white victims has come down since then.

2. African-Americans are arrested at a higher rate for drug abuse

African-Americans are arrested for drug abuse at a much higher rate than white Americans, although surveys show drug use at similar levels.

Drug abuse arrests by race

In 2018, around 750 out of every 100,000 African-Americans were arrested for drug abuse, compared to around 350 out of every 100,000 white Americans.

Previous national surveys on drug use show that white people use drugs at similar rates, but African-Americans continue to get arrested at a higher rate.

For example, a study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that African-Americans were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though their rate of marijuana usage was comparable.

3. More African-Americans are imprisoned

African-Americans are imprisoned at five times the rate of white Americans, and at almost twice the rate of Hispanic-Americans, according to the latest data.

In 2018, African-Americans made up around 13% of the US population, but represented almost a third of the country’s prison population.

White Americans made up around 30% of the prison population – despite representing more than 60% of the total US population.

That’s more than 1,000 African-American prisoners for every 100,000 African-Americans, compared to around 200 white inmates for every 100,000 white Americans.

Prison population per 100,000 people by race

The US prison population is defined as inmates sentenced to more than a year in a federal or state prison.

Imprisonment rates have dropped for African-Americans over the last decade, but they still make up more of the prison population than any other race.

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